Fire Starters

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals

Will 2016 Political Fundraising Hurt Your Nonprofit Fundraising?

It’s likely this will be the most expensive presidential election in history. So it’s no surprise if you’re wondering, will political fundraising hurt my nonprofit fundraising this year? The important thing: Don’t use the fall elections as an excuse for not meeting your annual fundraising goals. The smart folks at Blackbaud released a report earlier this year based on the last presidential election that helps unpack Giving in an Election Year: How Political Giving Impacts Nonprofit Support. A few key findings from the report might surprise you: Donors who gave to federal political campaigns in 2012 gave .9% more to the charitable organizations in the study than they gave in 2011. Donor who did NOT give to political campaigns reduced their giving to the charities in the study by 2.1%. This study may have uncovered that high-profile campaign years are ideal target times for nonprofits to acquire young donors. There is a ton of excellent information in the study, but what is most important to remember is that the same actions for maintaining a strong relationship with your donors and building your list of new donors is as important in a federal election year as it is any other year. So, if you think it’s time to stay away from inviting large gifts and increasing both donor retention and acquisition numbers, think again. Here’s my quick recap of the Recommendations for 2016 Fundraising from the Blackbaud report:   Decisions about purchasing lists or making any big push for new donor acquisition and lapsed donor efforts heading into the fall should be based on a well thought-out plan. Donors are being asked A...

I’m Tired of Hearing You Don’t Have Enough Money

What feels impossible for your organization? Reaching your fundraising goals this year? Filling all the seats at your event? Having the board do things that. . . affect the bottom line? Watch this video clip from Cameron Herold, world renowned speaker who asks the kind of questions I ask my clients, and then tell me what your organization’s barriers really are. . .

Last Minute Ideas to Raise More at Your Nonprofit Fundraising Event

Spring nonprofit fundraising event season is in full swing. I’ve received invitations to wine tastings, silent auctions, breakfast, lunch and dinner events, golf events and even non-event events. You name the type of fundraising event we’re all being invited to them. Whether you are in the final push before your annual fundraising event or planning an event for later this year. . .

Why Is Raising Money So Difficult?

I talk to A LOT of people in the social or nonprofit sector every week. Board members, Executive Directors, Development Directors, data entry staff. . . you name the position and I have probably spoken with them this week. Most bring me their concerns about reaching their fundraising goals.

Don’t Make My Fundraising Mistakes, Make New Ones

In 1988 I was deliriously happy to have been hired to work on a U.S. Senate campaign. It was my first “real” fundraising gig and I was greener than a lily pad. But I didn’t care. I was honored to be working for and with a group of passionate men and woman who were willing to work long hours to make our state and our country a better place. We held rallies, house parties, sent out mailing after mailing, and made phone calls all to raise money and get commitments for votes supporting our candidate. (This was WELL before online giving was even possible.) I don’t remember why, but I got chosen to be the staff member who sat with our candidate to make fundraising phone calls a few mornings a week. Each afternoon I would drive around the Twin Cities to pick up checks from the “big dogs” as we affectionately called them. These were the major donors who always contributed to political campaigns. What I noticed was that our candidate did ANYTHING he could to get out of making the calls. I was young and didn’t realize how difficult it was for him. I was often frustrated and sometimes complained to others about his attitude. Does this sound like you? Complaints made about the board because they don’t do what they SHOULD be doing? Or complaints about your program staff because they don’t help you identify warm, compelling stories for you? I made the mistake of not realizing that my “candidate” was my customer too. Here’s what I wish I could go back and tell that young,...

Blow Past Your Fundraising Goals

The past few weeks have been super windy where ever I go: Minneapolis, Lincoln, NE, Dubuque, IA.   The windy weather is reminding about the case study examples and tools I’ll share with you on April 20th to help you blow past your fundraising goal this year. If raising MORE money this year matters to you; if making changes to your fundraising tactics is something you are willing to commit to; join me for a FREE webinar training on April 20th: Fundraising Tools to Raise $300 Million. And Counting. Reserve your spot now, I’ve got limited spots available. What will I cover? I’m NOT selling anything. I promise! I recorded a short video (less than 90 seconds) to tell you about the webinar and what I’ll cover on April 20th. You can also watch the video YouTube. Blow Past Your Fundraising Goals!If raising MORE money this year matters to you: 1. Reserve your spot now for this free webinar (space is limited.) 2. Put this on your calendar: 11 a.m. (Central) April 20th and learn what makes a nonprofit organization successful in their...

Are You Sharing Stories of Your Nonprofit’s Impact or Giving Reports?

Today I head to Lincoln, Nebraska where I’ll be presenting at Cause Camp. An incredibly fun two-day event where nonprofits professionals learn and interact with fundraising and marketing leaders. I’m honored to deliver a workshop on Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign, and a breakout session on Advanced Storytelling. (My most favorite topic!) In both sessions we’ll talk about sharing stories and how important it is in fundraising campaigns and your overall success as a nonprofit. I’m passionate about nonprofit organizations sharing stories of your impact. Sharing stories about one person you’ve helped allows you to connect with your supporters on a personal and emotional level. And the double whammy is that those same stories can cause people to take immediate action. That action can be contributing time, talent, “stuff” or money. All good things, right? Because we’ve all heard, over and over again that sharing stories is important I regularly come across what I call lazy, unemotional story sharing. Well-intended people are going through the motions of inserting a few lines about a client or volunteer in their appeal or their speech and calling it a story. The truth: It’s boooorrrrring. So please; please; pay attention to what you sharing. Make sure you’re sharing actual stories and not giving reports. How to tell the difference? Stories are a narrative account of real or imagined events, according to the National Storytelling Association. You are not a reporter that has to worry about sharing objective and careful stories. You are a fundraising or communications professional charged with inspiring others to take action. The best thing to remember: Share how...

In Fundraising Too: Fake It Till You Make It

A huge “ah ha” moment about nonprofits and fundraising hit me a few days ago. But before I share it, let me give you some background. I spend nearly all of my waking hours teaching, training, and coaching nonprofit staff and board members about the best practices of fundraising and communications. All of my work is focused on helping as many organizations and people as possible — raise lots of money from individual donors. The $300 million I’ve helped organizations raise so far is nothing to sneeze at. Frankly, it even astounds me. I work to make the sessions I deliver fun and easy to dive into. Plenty of time is spent in discussion and even practicing some of the tools participants have learned. People learn stuff. They get inspired. And many go off and do amazing things with what they’ve learned. But some don’t. And here’s where my “ah ha” moment happened. As I was pondering why a recent volunteer gig I took on was an abysmal failure I realized this: The organization couldn’t see themselves as successful in their fundraising. Without the acceptance of eventual success or the “fake it till you make it” attitude that most of the people I work with have, they were never, ever going to succeed in raising more money. And then I read this: “You Need to Practice Being Your Future Self” by Peter Bregman in Harvard Business Review. Wham! I got it. “Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They are both running, but being...

No Paid Fundraising Staff? Assign a “Fundraising Leader” and Raise More Money.

Successful individual donor fundraising efforts are led by key volunteer and/or staff leadership. (Board Chair, CEO, Executive Director, President, Pastor, Rabbi) Case Study The Actors Studio for Young People (ASYP) is an exciting, high energy place. They have a mission to provide a safe, fun environment for young people (ages 6 to 18) to find their voice through the magic of theater, dance, song, poetry, writing, team work, and commitment. They’ve been growing steadily over the past five years. Their founder, Andi, is a woman on a mission. Andi is in her mid-30s, tall, always in a hurry, single, and she devotes all her time to be with the budding young artists. At The Actors Studio for Young People she does it ALL. Sort of. What Andi most loves is to ignite passion in young people. She’s the only staff at this small organization with a budget of around $200,000. In addition to being the artistic director it’s also her responsibility to raise money, manage a nine-person board, produce all of the shows, manage four contract staff and 25-30 volunteer parents, do the social media, send out the enewsletter, and more. Because she is committed to the young actors, Andi delgates parts of her job that she doesn’t really like, nor have any skills to do, to her board. The missing piece is Andi never told any of the board members she is relinquishing some of her Executive Director duties, especially the fundraising duties. Board meetings have become uncomfortable and long with finger pointing and unfinished business. Andi relies on the board to put on the annual fundraising gala....

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